Sir John Templeton, Religion and Science Philanthropist, Dies

Sir John M. Templeton, the legendary global investor and billionaire philanthropist who gave away hundreds of millions of dollars toward efforts that shed light on the relationship between religion and science, died Tuesday in the Nassau, Bahamas, of pneumonia. He was 95.

"Today the world has lost a very special person. His family, friends and foundation will miss him greatly," his great niece Laura Templeton wrote on a blog, responding to posts critical of his work.

She described him as an "amazing human being" who was generous, thrifty, wise, and hardworking. He also loved everyone regardless of their thoughts, beliefs, political affiliations, or philanthropic endeavors, she added.

"His contributions to the world were great, and he lived a good and honorable life," Laura eulogized.

Considered a pioneer in value-based, globally diversified mutual funds, John Templeton built a fortune on Wall Street in part by organizing some of the most successful investment funds of his time.

Although an elder of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Templeton held broad views of spirituality. He believed in the shared divinity between God and man while rejecting literal views of heaven and hell.

Espousing the belief that relatively little is known about God through Scripture and present-day theology, Templeton launched a quest to affirm life's spiritual dimension and comprehend the diverse manifestations of the Divine by establishing the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1972.

The $1.5 million award grew out of the philanthropist's belief that an honor equivalent to a Nobel Prize should be bestowed on living innovators in spiritual action and thought.

Recipients of this award have included Mother Teresa, the Rev. Billy Graham, Chuck Colson and Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In recent years, the honor has gone primarily to scientists and philosophers.

"What is the best way to live? How large is God? How are finite beings related to the infinite? What was God's purpose in creating the universe? How can we be helpful?" posits Templeton, according to the prize's Web site.

"These ageless questions can inspire people today just as they have inspired people throughout the ages, linking the human soul to philosophy and to the love of wisdom," he is quoted as saying.

His philanthropy also extended to other religious-based organizations. Templeton served as a trustee on the board of Princeton Theological Seminary, the largest Presbyterian seminary, for 42 years and served as its chair for 12 years. He was also a board member for the American Bible Society.

In 1987, Templeton established The John Templeton Foundation. Today, many Christian organizations and those with other faith viewpoints receive support from the Foundation for conferences and studies that discuss the "Big Questions" of science, religion, and human purpose. The Pennsylvania-based organization awards roughly $70 million annually and currently holds an endowment of around $1.5 billion.

He also wrote or edited at least a dozen books on finances and spirituality, including the 1982 The Humble Approach: Scientists Discover God and the 2005 Faithful Finances 101: From the Poverty of Fear and Greed to the Riches of Spiritual Investing.